In May, Katy Perry made headlines—not for her latest sartorial choice or her hyped-up feud with Taylor Swift— but because of her salary. It was reported that the Grammy winner would be getting paid $25 million to be a part of the new ABC American Idol reboot.
Perry's alleged bank-breaking fee, though unconfirmed, received so much backlash that three months later, the producers of the show are still defending it.
"This is a business," ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey tells Entertainment Weekly. "We need to make sure we make the right decision so the show can be financially viable, so it will have a place on ABC for years to come.”
Dungey says describes hiring Katy as hitting "the jackpot" and a "fantastic" addition to the panel, but other industry critics question whether she's worth the money.
Let's consider the facts: Perry has been a household name for years, continuing to stay on top of the charts year after year. She just got a ton of VMA nominations and in June, became the only artist to have three songs certified diamond. As a top earner in her industry, she's also proven herself a talented pitchwoman, racking up endorsement deals, along with a record-breaking number of followers on social media.
Plus, her salary is not unprecedented. In 2009 after being virtually unknown when he started on American Idol, America's favorite grouch, Simon Cowell, was paid $45 million to make people hate him on the show. Compare that to Paula Abdul, who earned $1 million to $3.5 million per season.
Given that Perry may still be earning $20 million less than Cowell, despite the fact that she has a larger, more loyal internet fanbase, begs the question: Would we be debating her salary if she were a man?
One of the people that would like critics to stop questioning Perry's payday is American Idol producer and CEO of FremantleMedia North America Cecile Frot-Coutaz. She is literally the woman behind the curtain making all the big decisions. She told The Hollywood Reporter, "Katy is in a transition in terms of her own career. It has been shown now what these platforms can do for artists. It has been beneficial to other people, whether it's on Idol or The Voice. But I think she genuinely cares. She auditioned when she was a guest judge on Idol in 2010 and then on the [U.K.] X-Factor. She's brilliant."
Frot-Coutaz also argues that paying Perry this salary does not make Idol a more expensive show than its competitors. "ABC wouldn't order something that didn't work for them financially," she said. And consider what Perry can do for this show? She is the first person on Twitter to reach 100 million followers. She also has several endorsement deals including Adidas, PopChips and CoverGirl which has contributed to her being Forbes' third-highest-paid celebrity of 2015 with pretax earnings of $135 million. She can do a lot for this reboot.
"I'm really proud that, as a woman, I got paid," Perry said in an interview in May. "And you know why? I got paid like more than like pretty much any guy that's been on that show."
Pretty much, but not all. The series is slated to air on ABC sometime in 2018, this time without Simon Cowell.
(Pascal Le Segretain / Staff for Getty)